Report: Inmates in Saudi terror cases live in luxury

Some of the inmates are allowed temporary release to attend important family occasions such as weddings, one source said

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The Ministry of Interior grants monthly financial aid ranging from SR2,000 to SR3,000 ($533 - $799) to inmates at Dhahban Prison located on Madinah Road in Jeddah, according to an officer at the prison.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette reporter Ali Bin Gharsan entered the prison to find out how inmates convicted of terrorism offenses were being treated.

He said: “I bet we all imagine that they must be tortured with electric shocks or other forms.

“But when I entered with my photographer we saw a completely different sight.”

After being searched, Bin Gharsan and photographer Madini Asiry were escorted by a police officer to the first building inside the prison’s walls.

Bin Gharsan said: “The first building we went into was an administrative building with offices for the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, the Human Rights Commission, and the National Human Rights Society.

“They are considered independent and unbiased entities placed to supervise the administration of the prison.”

They were then taken to another building where 5,000 security and police officers and workers were housed.

They then entered the general hall of the inmates and noticed they all wore blue. In this hall, they were considered all equal and had the same rights.

The reporter and photographer were then escorted to the visiting area where family members and friends of inmates visit.

Bin Gharsan said: “We saw the men’s visiting area first.

“It had a fully equipped reception with refreshments, Arabic coffee and a seating area.

“Our escort explained that this was the waiting area for the visitors.

“The visiting room is right next to it.”

He added that the room was 16 square meters with a chair in the corner for the supervising officer to sit. “There was also another visiting area for women and family.

“The women visitors were searched by a female officer and given privacy when meeting their loved ones.”

He added that the prison offered another type of visit where husbands and wives are allowed to spend time together in a private room similar to a hotel suite undisturbed.

“Our escort explained that visiting hours were from one to three hours but officers are very lenient about time. There were over 30 private rooms for married couples and each room had a bed, clean sheets, refreshments, toiletries, TV screen, snacks, and of course a bathroom.”

The escorting officer said visiting an inmate was not a complicated procedure as rumored.

“Our records show that last year we had 4,604 general visits and 2,100 private visits.

“In total, we had 24,676 visitors.

“The Ministry of Interior pays for the flights of visitors from outside of Jeddah.

“The inmates are also allowed to call their families. Last year, we allowed 810 phone calls in total.”

He added some of the inmates are allowed temporary release to attend important family occasions such as weddings, funerals or to get married.

“The inmates that are released to attend a wedding are given SR10,000 to buy a gift for their friends and families.

“Newlywed inmates are given a few days to spend with their wives.

“Last year, we allowed 51 inmates to be temporarily released.”

He added the inmates wear a tag when they are released and they usually have 24 hours only.

“We only release the ones that we are sure will cause no harm to the public.

“There has never been a case of an inmate escaping.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 4, 2015.